animals


sidehill_gouger_by_jayoen

The Sidehill Gouger by Jayoen at Deviant Art

My uncle and my older cousin called it the sidehill toggler, an infamous creature from Utah legend. It was fearsome, they said, hanging out in the high mountains, and if you encountered one you had no chance of outrunning it because it was fearsome fast. And carnivorous. Well, there was maybe one way to evade it: run in the opposite direction from the way it faced. It might be a little tricky to get by it to run in the opposite direction, but if you went downhill or uphill a bit, you could generally squeak by. See, the sidehill toggler could only run one way on a mountainside and it could only run round and round the same pathway because it had a regular sized leg on one side and a very, very short leg on the other. Which was why it was so impossibly speedy on mountain slopes…in one direction.

Even though I was little, something in the glint in my uncle’s eyes and the way my cousin bit her lower lip made me skeptical. I was made even more skeptical when I asked what it looked like. They hemmed and hawed, but eventually agreed it was a giant flightless bird, bigger than an ostrich—like maybe a cousin of an ostrich or something, only this bird had a gigantic curved and sharp beak that could tear a person limb from limb.

My mom liked nature shows and watched them all the time, I said. I thought for sure something as terrible and strange as this bird would have popped up on one. But no, my uncle said, the government didn’t like people talking about it because it could cause a panic or something and so the sidehill toggler was confined to the remotest mountains in special nature preserves where no one was allowed to go. Lumberjacks were the only ones who ever saw them, and brought the tales home to tell around firesides.

Mom got back from the store at this point and told my uncle and my cousin to stop filling my head with trash. They laughed a lot at that point.

“I knew you were lying,” I told them.

“Not lying,” my Uncle Rupert said. “Storytelling.”

“Well, Francie was lying,” I said. She blushed.

But it turns out that the sidehill toggler is a real thing. Okay, not a real real thing, but not just a story my uncle and cousin made up. It’s a folklore thing. A tall tale thing. One of the things that lumberjacks really did like to tell stories about around firesides. The most common name for this creature is the sidehill gouger, but it has dozens of names, including the rickaboo racker, the sidehill winder, the gyascutus, the sidehill badger, the rackabore, and so on and so on. My uncle and my cousin may have made up the part about it being a giant bird because I haven’t found any other accounts of it looking like that. Although storytellers do disagree about its appearance, sidehill gougers are often described as badger-like, or deer-like (only with sharp teeth and carnivorous tendencies). Apparently, it’s not just Americans who encounter these extraordinary creatures: the French have one called a dahut, and the Scots have a sidehill haggis. Which calls up pictures of a giant stuffed carnivorous sheep’s bladder with legs. But maybe that’s just me.

Folklorist Carol Rose in Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth says of the Guyascutus and its ilk that they are part of:

the folklore of lumberjacks and forest workers (and later fraudsters) during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, especially in Wisconsin and Minnesota in the United States….The creature belongs to a group of monsters affectionately known as the Fearsome Critters, whose exaggerated proportions and activities not only explained the weird noises of the lonely landscape but also provided some amusement at camps.

I hear they have mosquitoes the size of cows out in Wisconsin and Minnesota, too. Or maybe there’s just so many of them in the summertime it feels like you’ve been bitten by a blood-sucking cow or two. Pretty fearsome either way.

Random quote of the day:

“If…Descartes…had kept a poodle, the history of philosophy would have been different. The poodle would have taught Descartes that contrary to his doctrine, animals are not machines, and hence the human body is not a machine, forever separated from the mind…”

—Arthur Koestler, Janus: A Summing Up

 poodle4WP@@@

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.


Random quote of the day:

“When a man wants to murder a tiger he calls it sport: when the tiger wants to murder him he calls it ferocity. The distinction between Crime and Justice is no greater.”

—George Bernard Shaw, “The Revolutionist’s Handbook and Pocket Companion,” Man and Superman

 tiger4WP@@@

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

27 Dec
The guy in the Cadillac Escalade whose license plate included “ASAP” driving at least 10 mph under the speed limit.

30 Dec
I have strep throat. The doc said “I worked in the ER and nothing phases me but THAT’S impressive.” God knows how long I’ve had it.

31 Dec
I’ve been sick as a dog for days but tonight I feel like I may have regained my humanity. Happy new year everyone.

1 Jan
No fever this morning for the first time since Friday. I think I may survive. 

 May you all enjoy a happy and fever free 2013.

1 Jan
Having watched all the Rose Parade I can stand (10 minutes), I will turn my attention elsewhere.

2 Jan
People are the foulest species. I don’t usually watch Animal Cops because I can’t stand the cruelty, stupidity and culpability of some people, but it happened to be on when I turned the TV on and I became transfixed by a story of three horses. Happy endings for two of them, no word on what kind of ending the third experienced. I want to believe the number of good people balances out the bad, but there are days I have my doubts.

2 Jan
In other news, I still feel like crud.

2 Jan
Watching a Dr. Oz diet show while eating KFC: another fine irony.

3 Jan
Profound: doing an oracle reading re: Mom and having her interrupt it with a phone call. If I was a writer I might make something of that.

4 Jan
I felt mostly human today but still tire way too easily.

6 Jan
Who likes mimes except other mimes?

7 Jan
I think “don’t describe eye color” is one of the more bogus writing rules. Someone with a personality disorder must have made that one up. I always notice eye color in Real Life. It’s pertinent in description; eyes are the windows to the soul, etc. Having said all this, I do believe amateurs way the hell overuse eye color as a descriptor, as if it’s the only thing important about a face. It’s one more piece of the puzzle, that’s all, and perhaps that rule was generated by someone’s frustration over too many “he had brown hair and blue eyes” 
flat and lifeless descriptions. More important perhaps to note the pitted quality of his nose, how light never touches those blue eyes.

7 Jan
They’re talking about springing Ma soon from the Big House. She’s been walking real good.

9 Jan
Boycotting Olive Garden, Red Lobster and now Wendy’s: http://bit.ly/ZyYiY5 

10 Jan
Hope seems to be my Rasputin emotion. No matter how many times and ways it is assassinated, it refuses to die.

10 Jan
Mom got cocky, thinking she was going home, and decided to go to the bathroom without help. She lost her balance and “fell.” Although she insists she just “slid down the wall.” No breaks/fractures, thank God. But they want to monitor her another week or so before releasing her. She’s doing well. They took her outside and walked her up and down the block yesterday (assisted). They’re just being cautious.

11 Jan
I’m so old that when I hear the word “butter” I have to fight the urge to say, “Parkay.”

14 Jan
Dear Man on the Cycle: your clownish bicycle clothes just got stupider with the addition of the unitard.

14 Jan
The water in the birdbath froze overnight, a very rare occurrence here near the beach.

14 Jan
It doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t 

mean anything.

Don’t read anything into it, don’t read anything into it, don’t read anything into it, don’t read anything into it, don’t read anything into it.

Remember: hope is the thing without feathers.

14 Jan
Funny the things that stick in your mind: I can’t read/hear “papier maché” without hearing Rowan Atkinson’s voice (from Blackadder Goes Forth) saying, “Pap-ee-yay MASH-ay willie.” (He was mocking the artistic strivings of Hugh Laurie’s upperclass twit character.) That phrase has been rattling around in my brain for years. Sad, really.

15 Jan
Wow. I just forgot my boss’s last name. I had to get up and look at his name plate. That’s rather terrifying.

15 Jan
Stop being a writer and just write.

15 Jan
Conspiracy theory and gun nuts—a terrifying, sick combination: http://yhoo.it/106HIPr 

Random quote of the day:

 

“We are the only animal that makes art. We are the only animal that has invented metaphor to define ourselves to ourselves.”

—Edward Albee, “Humans: the artsy animals,” Los Angeles Times Op/Ed, May 30, 2006

 

 

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.